Ghana’s former President, John Kufuor, told VOA he was impressed with officials of Ivory Coast’s Independent Electoral Commission for conducting what he described as a peaceful vote Sunday.
Mr. Kufuor, who is the co-chairman of the U.S.-based Carter Center poll observer mission to Ivory Coast, said the stability of the country will have a positive impact on the entire West African sub-region.
“I touched through the counting at a polling station and I must say that I was impressed. The presiding member and the election officials, they all seemed to know what they were about. And, they did everything so transparently that, at that particular station, I felt the performance has been as good as any I have observed anywhere,” he said. “So, I hope that it will be the same across the country so that the results will be accepted by all.”
Ivory Coast held a long-delayed presidential election Sunday designed to reunite the country split in half by the 2002 civil war. Journalists reported long lines of voters Sunday in the main city of Abidjan and a generally peaceful atmosphere, although there are fears of post-election unrest.
The election features 14 candidates, including incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo, who has held office since the last presidential vote in 2000. His main rivals are former president Henri Konan Bedie, who was toppled in a 1999 coup and former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara.
Mr. Kufuor said Sunday’s vote is a first step towards the country’s stability.
“It will mean a lot if everything should end well with the elections here in Cote d’Ivoire because Cote d’Ivoire, as you know, has been very central with the West African economy and it’s a place of convergence. The African Development Bank was sited here and it’s the number-one cocoa growing country in the whole world,” Mr. Kufuor said.
“With peace restored here and the government running normally in Cote d’Ivoire, the country will be able to take its proper place within ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) so as to cooperate with nations like Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal to help move the objectives of ECOWAS to the benefit of the entire sub-region of West Africa.”
Current Prime Minister Guillaume Soro said Saturday that everything was ready for the vote, and that even years of delay have not dampened voter enthusiasm.
However, many Ivorians expressed concerns that losing candidates will reject the results and trigger a new wave of violence in the West African country.